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James Levine, the immensely achieved conductor who wielded energy and affect within the classical world, and whose singular tenure on the Metropolitan Opera led to a flurry of accusations of sexual abuse, died on March 9 in Palm Springs, Calif. His doctor of 17 years, Dr. Len Horovitz, confirmed his dying to NPR, saying that Levine died of pure causes. He was 77 years previous.
Over 4 and a half many years, Levine formed the sound and repute of New York’s storied Metropolitan Opera, the most important performing arts group within the nation, by way of his conducting, teaching of singers and choristers and fine-tuning the pit musicians into one of many world’s nice orchestras. Levine led greater than 2,500 performances on the opera home, starting in 1971, when he made his debut, till his ultimate efficiency on Dec. 2, 2017.
That very same night, the Met issued a statement saying it was suspending the conductor pending an investigation into “a number of allegations of sexual misconduct.” Extra accusers got here ahead over the subsequent a number of months, alleging harassing or abusive habits courting again to the conductor’s early profession, when the accusers had been Levine’s teenaged college students or mentees. In all, 9 males publicly accused Levine of getting abused them. The corporate formally fired Levine in March 2018.
Along with his years with the Met, Levine served because the music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2011, and was the chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic for 5 seasons. He was a frequent visitor conductor of the world’s most interesting orchestras, with particular relationships in Berlin and Vienna. He routinely gave recitals — typically with different pianists, comparable to Evgeny Kissin, and particularly as an accompanist to celebrated opera singers, together with Jessye Norman and Kathleen Battle. In 2006, the Boston Globe reported that with mixed salaries from each the Met and the BSO totaling $3.5 million, Levine was the very best paid conductor within the U.S.
A prolific recording artist, Levine gained 10 Grammys, starting in 1982 with a greatest orchestral efficiency award for his account of Mahler‘s Seventh Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Levine led that orchestra at its summer time house on the Ravinia Pageant, the place he was music director from 1973 to 1993.
James Levine was born in Cincinnati on June 23, 1943, and started piano classes at age 4. He debuted as a soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra at 10, studied on the Marlboro Music Pageant with pianist Rudolf Serkin and as a young person enrolled within the Juilliard College’s graduate division, finding out conducting with Jean Morel and piano with Rosina Lhévinne. At 21, Levine started a six-year stint as an apprentice, then assistant conductor, to George Szell on the Cleveland Orchestra — the place he first started to deeply perceive the mechanics of a serious orchestra from the within, and the place he assembled an orchestra of his personal, composed of scholars from the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Levine’s early experiences conducting opera got here in Cleveland and on the Aspen Music College and Pageant, in addition to a 1970 manufacturing of Aida on the Welsh Nationwide Opera. On June 5, 1971, Levine made his Metropolitan Opera debut, conducting Tosca with a solid that included Grace Bumbry and Franco Corelli. Speight Jenkins, writing within the Dallas Occasions Herald years earlier than he turned common director of the Seattle Opera, observed the 27-year-old’s expertise: “Essentially the most thrilling dividends got here from Levine. His baton approach is evident; his rhythms radiate flexibility; and he delivered to ‘Tosca’ a dramatic tautness incessantly lacking within the Met’s pit.”
Inside two years, Levine could be named the Met’s principal conductor. He rose shortly from there, graduating to music director in 1975 and creative director in 1986, and in glowing critiques all through his profession was typically known as his technology’s most interesting opera conductor. In 2013, after a greater than two-year absence from the pit for well being causes, Levine returned to the Met to conduct Mozart’s Così fan tutte, which was nothing lower than a revelation to the classical music critic of The New York Occasions.
“If the efficiency had merely been a stable success, that might have been sufficient to gratify the opera followers who cherish his work and to reassure his involved colleagues on the Met,” Anthony Tommasini wrote. “Nevertheless it was far more. Over a few years I’ve heard Mr. Levine give some exceptional accounts of Mozart operas, and I do not suppose I’ve ever heard a extra vibrant, masterly and pure efficiency than this ‘Cosi Fan Tutte.’ “
Levine’s late profession was disrupted by a string of well being points, starting in 2006 when he fell from the stage on the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for which he underwent rotator cuff surgical procedure. Extra hurdles adopted, together with again surgical procedure and the elimination of a cancerous kidney — as did myriad cancellations, leading to Levine stepping down from the BSO in 2011. Later that 12 months, one other fall injured his backbone, inflicting him to drag out of two seasons of Met performances. He lastly resigned from the corporate in 2016, assuming the title of music director emeritus.
In early December 2017, the Met took motion towards Levine after three men came forward to accuse the conductor of sexually abusing them once they had been youngsters. In a statement on its Fb web page, the corporate wrote: “We’re suspending our relationship with James Levine, pending an investigation, following a number of allegations of sexual misconduct by Mr. Levine that came about from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, together with the sooner a part of his conducting profession on the Met. Mr. Levine is not going to be concerned in any Met actions, together with conducting scheduled performances on the Met this season.”
A minimum of 9 males finally came forward — some by identify, others anonymously — with a variety of sexual misconduct accusations towards Levine. On March 12, 2018, the Met fired Levine, stating that its investigation had “uncovered credible proof that Mr. Levine engaged in sexually abusive and harassing conduct in the direction of weak artists within the early phases of their careers, over whom Mr. Levine had authority. In gentle of those findings, the Met concludes that it might be inappropriate and unimaginable for Mr. Levine to proceed to work on the Met.”
Levine denied the allegations, and responded with a lawsuit towards the Met for breach of contract and defamation. The Met countersued, saying that Levine had violated his duties and harmed the repute of the establishment. The battle ended quietly in July 2019 with a settlement whose phrases weren’t publicly disclosed.
In a public statement, the Metropolitan Opera stated partially: “The Metropolitan Opera honors the reminiscence of former Music Director James Levine, who held the musical reins of the corporate for four-and-a-half many years. Maestro Levine carried out greater than 2,500 performances of 85 completely different operas on the Met, beginning along with his firm debut in 1971 main Puccini’s Tosca. …
“Regardless of his plain creative achievements on behalf of the Met,” the assertion continued, “his relationship with the corporate frayed within the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct, and in 2018 he was faraway from his place as Music Director Emeritus after a three-month investigation by outdoors counsel. His ultimate look on the Met was main a live performance efficiency of the Verdi Requiem on Dec. 2, 2017.”
Although rumors about Levine and sexual misconduct had circulated within the classical music world for years, information of the accusations shocked followers and rippled all through the humanities and leisure industries. Reactions on the time ranged from the removal of Levine’s performances from the Met’s Sirius XM Satellite tv for pc radio channel to a considerate Occasions essay by Tommasini, titled “Ought to I Put Away My James Levine Recordings?”
Levine’s fall from grace was particularly hanging given the extraordinary profession he had constructed, one in every of broad visibility and near-universal enchantment. He made Time journal’s cover in 1983, was profiled on CBS’s 60 Minutes and PBS’s American Masters sequence, collaborated with Mickey Mouse onscreen in Fantasia 2000 and was held up by some critics as America’s most proficient conductor since Leonard Bernstein. That Levine steadfastly molded the Met for over 4 many years within the age of jet-setting music administrators is a monumental achievement that set new requirements for opera in America. It stays a singular function of his sophisticated legacy.